COOL AND POPULAR? YES! BUT ARE EDUCATIONAL COMPUTER GAMES USEFUL?
TU Graz (AUSTRIA)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2011 Proceedings
Publication year: 2011
Conference name: 4th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 14-16 November, 2011
Location: Madrid, Spain
Abstract:Computer games are undoubtedly an enormously successful and popular genre. Over the past years, a continuously growing community of researchers, governmental bodies, and companies made the idea of using the potential of computer games for serious, primarily educational purposes equally popular. Currently we are facing a vast amount of initiatives, research endeavours, and commercial offers, among them the notable Games and Learning Alliance (GALA), which is a network of excellence comprising Europe’s most important actors in the genre.
The present hype over serious games is not in accord with sound evidence for the effectiveness and efficiency of such games and also indicators for the quality of learner-game interaction is lacking. On of the major reasons for this disparity is that, unlike conventional (educational) software, computer games have very specific characteristics that require a novel approach to usability and quality. To give a very simple example, while usability evaluation usually approaches the concept of effectiveness in terms of spending a minimum of efforts to reach a specific goal (e.g., mouse clicks), this principle may not be valid in the context of games. In the contrary, effectiveness of serious games might be determined by an as long and as intensive interaction as possible. Previous authors have addressed this challenged and proposed a novel approach to the evaluation of serious games (e.g., Law et al., 2008). This approach is based on four evaluation dimension, that is, (1) learning effectiveness, (2) gaming experience, (3) game usability, and (4) a real-time interaction trajectory for adaptive game features. In the present work we took up those ideas and conducted an eye tracking study to evaluate (i) the usability of a game prototype, (ii) the extent of learner satisfaction, and most importantly (iii) the learning efficacy. The investigated game prototype was developed in the context of the European 80Days project (www.eighytdays.eu). The game is designed as typical action adventure, supposed to teach geography for an age group of 13 to 14 years according to national curricula of Austria, Switzerland, and the UK. The story is simple: On night a space ship lands in a kid’s (the player) backyard. The alien is a friendly creature named Feon, an intergalactic scout with the task of collecting information about foreign planets and life forms. Together they fly with the space ship from location to location and collect the desired information by accomplishing various missions and solving various riddles. The presentation will illustrate distinct results from a large scale evaluation of the game it’s efficacy for teaching geography. The investigation includes performance data, data on pleasure and fund, as well as eye tracking results.
Keywords: Serious Games, Evaluation, Eye Tracking.